4 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money

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Have you ever wished that someone taught you more about money as a child? The sad reality is that many students graduate from college with a degree but are unable to manage their money. Here are some tips to educate your children about money so they can better handle their finances in the future:

1. Talk isn’t cheap when it comes to money.

Dianne Caliman, creative director of The Centsables, an award-winning animated TV series on the Fox Business network, believes talking is key when it comes to money matters with children. She suggests including your children in the family’s money management activities such as looking through circulars and clipping coupons.

She points out that these types of activities are great jumping off points for discussions. Caliman explains that showing real life examples to children fosters understanding and meaningful connections to money management. “Show the kids your bills, and explain how purchases made earlier must be paid for now,” she says.

Caliman also reminds parents to be role models and to ask themselves the following: What messages do you send your children? Are you living beyond your means? Do you pull out the plastic for every purchase? Do you and your spouse worry or argue about money? She advises taking a look at your own money habits, and make any changes where you think necessary. “When you exercise good financial judgment, you are automatically teaching your children by example. That’s a win-win situation for all,” she adds.

2. Make a budget-based allowance.

Bill Dwight, founder of FamZoo.com, suggests giving children an allowance that is based on a very simple budget. “Make a list of the typical things you would expect your kids to buy for themselves over a period of time, plus how much you would expect them to save and give, and calculate an allowance amount to match those clear expectations,” he says. Dwight adds that as your kids mature, you can extend the budget to cover more areas of spending like clothing. This approach helps insure that an allowance is a personal finance teaching tool rather than an entitlement.

3. Practice paying back loans before college.

One way to get practice at paying back a loan is to lend your kids money. Dwight suggests teaching your kids how to manage loan payments by arranging a parent-financed loan for a big ticket item like a laptop or a smartphone. “Direct a portion of their allowance, chore or job payments to paying off the loan each period. By making regular payments over an extended period of time, not only will your kids appreciate the cost of expensive items more, but they’ll take better care of them.”

4. Take on the tough lessons, too.

No one said teaching kids about money was easy. It may take work to get kids on board with the idea. Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian knows this firsthand by getting a little pushback from his own granddaughter when it came to the topic. In her elementary school class, she has to “pay” for her school books and “rent” the desk she sits in with pretend money she earns through various activities, academic performance and good behavior. What she saves after expenses can be used to “buy” rewards.

Griffin points out that many parents feel ill-equipped to teach their kids money concepts, especially more advanced ones and don’t know what to do. He explains how there are many sources on the web that can help. Griffin recommends checking out Moonjar.com for younger children, because it explains the basics of saving, spending and giving. LifeSmarts.org is geared toward older kids and provides free lessons online via videos and other tools.

Griffin also suggests showing high school and college-aged kids an actual credit report. A sample one is provided on the Experian website to understand the different parts and what they mean. They can see how their financial decisions impact how prospective creditors view their credit history. They get to see how their financial behavior, such as paying bills on time or being late, is tracked and recorded much like a permanent record.

At some point, everyone has to manage their own finances. The more exposure and practice a child gets, the better equipped they will be in the future when they have to make financial decisions on their own. Consider teaching them age-appropriate lessons as they grow to help them develop the skills they need to successfully handle their money.

Here at First Financial, we have a few products and services just for kids so they can start saving for their future while having fun doing it!

  • First Step Kids Savings Account: First Financial’s unique First Step Kids Savings Account is specifically designed for young people, with a focus on education and fun.*
  • Dollars for A’s Program: For every “A” your child earns on their report card, First Financial will deposit $1 into your child’s First Step Kids Account!* It’s a great way to reward your child for doing his or her best in school. It also teaches the life long practice of saving for the future. To earn your dollars, visit a branch location.**
  • Summer Reading Contest: Every summer we have a reading contest where First Financial kids up to age 18 can earn rewards for the books they read, along with a great grand prize!***
  • Student Checking Account: A complete Checking Account for students ages 14-23. It comes equipped with their own personalized Debit Card, has no minimum balance requirements, and more!****

*As of 12/12/2012, the First Step Kids Account has an annual percentage yield of 0.05% on balances of $100.00 and more. The dividend rate may change after the account is opened. Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Offer applies only to report cards for most recent school terms. Letter grade “A” or 90%+. No back rewards available for prior semesters or marking periods. Available for First Financial members between 1st and 12th grades. Qualifying report cards must be submitted within 45 days from the date of issue. Child must be present and a $5.00 deposit to a First Step Kids Account is required to receive the Dollars for A’s incentive.  Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. As of 12/12/2012, the First Step Kids Account has an annual percentage yield of 0.05% on balances of $100.00 and more. The dividend rate may change after the account is opened.

***Credit Union membership and Savings Account is required to participate. Members up to age 18 are eligible to participate and must complete an entry form. Reader rewards must be deposited to a child’s First Financial Savings Account. Winning reader and 4 runners up will be drawn after the contest ends (September), and will be contacted by the First Financial Marketing Department. Forms will not be posted on the website or located in any First Financial branch before the contest entry period.

****A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

*Original article courtesy by Karen Cordaway of US News.

4 Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping Now

Art Img 7 TipsIt is hard to believe, but the holiday shopping season is here. If you’re like most families, holiday shopping can be a strain on the budget. Many shoppers also fear looking cheap when passing out gifts, which can lead to over-spending and blowing the budget.

According to the American Research Group, Americans on average spent $801 on Christmas shopping in 2013. That kind of number will have a big impact on a budget. If you’re looking for ways to cut down the cost of holiday shopping and still get great gifts, these tips will help.

Start now:

The best way to save money on holiday shopping is to start early. There is a belief that the best deals are available around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and that is not always the case. Instead of waiting, be on the lookout for even bigger deals that might be hitting stores sooner. The ever expanding influence of online shopping has moved many retailers to begin pushing major holiday campaigns back as early as Halloween, if not earlier. The added benefit is being able to avoid the craziness that Black Friday shopping brings.

Check out the Dollar Stores:

It might not be too common, but shopping at discount or Dollar stores can be a great way to shave some spending off of your gift budget. You might not find your gifts there, but you can probably save on other holiday-related items, such as wrapping paper, gift bags and decorations.

While they might not have good options for a traditional gift, Dollar stores can be a great option for gag gifts, office Christmas parties and white elephant gift exchanges. Beyond that, Dollar stores are a useful alternative for party favors or decorations for parties you may be hosting. Since many of those items will likely be thrown away anyway, there is no point in spending more than you need to.

Shop at stores that match prices:

Price matching has become increasingly expected as many brick and mortar retailers deal with the presence of online shopping. While not every store offers price matching, it can be a great way to save money when added to your shopping strategy. The trick is to know the terms and conditions of the given retailer you’re shopping at. Some will match any retailer while others will not match online-only retailers.

If you have a smartphone, bring it with you when you go shopping. There are many apps available now, from Amazon to others, which allow you to scan the item to see what is charged for it elsewhere. Add that to your arsenal to save money while shopping. Lastly, make sure to check the retailer’s site itself to make sure it’s not offering a cheaper price online than in-store. If you find a discrepancy, you can always ask for a price match, or at least allow a free shipping option.

Watch the daily deal sites:

Like the Dollar store option, daily deal sites may not be commonly thought of as options for gift shopping but they can be a great way to save money. Many daily deal sites regularly sell significantly reduced deals for national retailers that can be great options for presents. They might also give you ideas for items that you can then go track down in local stores.

The problem with daily deal sites is they have a limited window in which you can get the deal. This can definitely pose a problem when shopping for that special someone. However, there are options available if you missed out on the deal you were looking for. CoupRecoup, for example, allows those who have bought deals they’re unable to use to sell them. This can be a great way to potentially score a deal on an item you were looking for.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one, especially on a tight budget. By using some simple tips like the ones mentioned above you should be able to shave some money off your holiday shopping budget, and maybe even have some leftover for yourself.

Make gifts merrier with First Financial VISA® Gift Cards and currency envelopes! Available in denominations of $20 to $500, a First Financial VISA® Gift Card* is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list at a small cost of $3.95 per card. Gift card envelopes are just $1 and currency envelopes are free (limited 5 per person)!** All proceeds from the envelopes sales go directly to the First Financial Foundation.

Check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!***

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.** 5 currency envelopes limit per person or purchase 10 currency envelopes for $2. ***A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Click here to view the original article source written by John Schmoll of U.S.News.

5 Foolish Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make

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Buying a home is exciting, especially when you’re buying for the first time. In the midst of all of the excitement, it’s easy to become blinded by beautiful back-splashes, granite and quartz counter tops, hardwood floors, and fenced-in backyards. While looking at homes that are completely perfect from top to bottom, you may begin to rationalize a larger purchase than you had originally planned for — “This house is perfect for me; it’s worth $50,000 extra dollars for me to have a house with enough space in a perfect location,” or “We were planning on spending a little bit of money on painting; we can spend $50,000 extra on this house because it doesn’t need any work.” These are some common mistakes first-time homebuyers often make – so be careful to avoid them if you are about to buy your first home.

1. Overspending

Before you even look at a single property, you need to know exactly how much you can afford. We have several online financial calculators you can use, but these tools are only estimates. Use these tools as a guide, but then adjust the amount based on your individual situation. How much is your current rent payment? Did you meet that payment each month with ease, or was it a bit of a struggle each month? The payment you can afford right now is a good indicator of what you’ll be able to afford in your new home.

Meet with a lender and get pre-approved for an amount you can afford. Also, keep in mind that it’s always better to lean towards a lower amount, rather than a higher amount. You do not have to use the entire amount you’re pre-approved for. Once you know how much you have to work with, then and only then should you start your house hunt.

2. Counting chickens before they hatch.

When determining how much mortgage you can afford, base this amount on what you are earning today. That is, the income that you and your spouse earn from stable sources. If you’re in your last year of law school, for instance, don’t assume that you will be earning much more money in a year or two, so you can afford a larger payment. If your wife is expecting a big promotion, don’t base your mortgage payment off of her potential salary increase. No one can predict the future, and although you may very well be in a better financial situation a year down the road, there is no guarantee.

3. Failing to account for closing costs, property taxes, HOA, and homeowner’s insurance.

When you rent a home, you generally only have one payment — rent — and then maybe renter’s insurance, which is optional. When you buy a place, your mortgage payment is only the beginning of an array of costs. Homeowner’s association fees can be as low as $0 or as high as a few hundred dollars per month, depending on where you live and the amenities and services offered.

Homeowners insurance and property taxes very based on your geographic location. Florida has notoriously high homeowner’s insurance rates, where they average $161.08 per month. In Idaho and Wisconsin, rates are a bit lower, averaging below $50 per month, according to Value Penguin. Property taxes average higher in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Texas and Wisconsin and they’re lower in Louisiana, Hawaii, and Alabama.

Then on top of all of those costs, if your down payment is less than 20 percent of the selling price, you may end up paying an additional cost — private mortgage insurance (PMI) — which is basically insurance for the lender in case you default on your loan. At the end of it all, your $800 mortgage payment can easily turn into a $1,200 house payment.

4. Failing to protect yourself with home inspections, contingency clauses, etc.

During your house hunt, you may find a house that looks great at first glance. Then, as you walk through a few of the rooms, you notice problems with the house — maybe the floors squeak or the kitchen island is off-centered. After walking through the house, you come to realize that someone simply put lipstick on a pig, and this house is in questionable shape.

Home inspections provide you with some protection. The inspector will be able to find problems that you can’t and you want to know these problems before you sign on. “The seller isn’t likely to tell you there’s mold in the basement or the walls are poorly insulated,” reports MSN.

Contingency clauses also offer a form of protection. “A mortgage financing contingency clause protects you if, say, you lose your job and the loan falls through or the appraisal price comes in over the purchase price. Should one of these events occur, the buyer gets back the money used to secure the property. Without the clause, the buyer can lose that money and still be obligated to buy the house,” explains Justin Lopatin, a mortgage planner with American Street Mortgage Co.

5. Being too naive or too paranoid.

Some first-time home buyers are naive. Overly optimistic, they think nothing could possibly go wrong. If a home has a few problems, they view them as easy fixes and are unrealistic when it comes to the cost and time it takes to fix up the home. Some naive buyers will move to a neighborhood on the wrong side of town, forgetting that you can fix up a house, but you can’t change your neighborhood or location without moving.

Paranoid buyers can be difficult to work with. They may not believe the price is an accurate assessment of the house’s market value. They may submit low offers which can be consistently rejected. Paranoid buyers may not trust real-estate agents, and may even try to buy their home without an agent, which is generally an unwise choice.

Stop into any First Financial branch and we can help you with your home buying journey. We provide great low rates and offer a variety of Mortgage options – to speak with First Financial’s lending department, call us at 866.750.0100 option 4.* 

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** We’re here to help you achieve your financial dreams!

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Original article source by Erika Rawes of Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

 

6 Apps That Can Save Your Financial Life

Save-Money-with-AppsWelcome to the bulging world of smartphone applications that will do the logging, tracking and thinking for you as you get your financial life in order, help you follow a budget, and nudge you to pull in the reins on your spending. New smartphone apps are going to market at speedy rates as consumers, both young and old, demand on-time access to all their accounts at a moment’s notice and thanks to Mint, Bona was able to do just that.

1. Mint: Mint is the oldest and most popular free app that pools your personal-finance accounts and investments into one place. You can pull up Mint on your smartphone or laptop and set goals — like paying off credit cards or saving to buy a home — that you can follow closely through graphs and colorful pie charts. If you stray by spending too much on, say, clothing, Mint does the equivalent of yelling at you. The app will alert you when a bill is due, but you cannot actually make a payment directly. This function is actually a good thing, in that it doesn’t allow you, or anyone else, to deposit or withdraw money, move money around or pay bills. It is encouraged that you download your financial institution’s mobile app or sign-up for Online Banking to move, transfer, and/or pay bills.

Here are budgeting and bill-paying apps besides Mint that will make your financial life simpler:

2. LearnVest: This new app is an extension of the financial-planning site of the same name that’s been around since 2009, initially as a personal-finance education site for women. The free app is a lot like Mint. It helps you create budgets and prioritize your financial goals while nudging you to meet them. Like Mint, it also connects directly to all your accounts — savings, checking, credit cards, investments — and tracks every credit and debit. That gives you an instant picture with easy-to-decipher charts and graphs of your net worth as well as alerts that you’re spending too much in one category. There’s a lot of reading material to help you navigate your financial future and for an extra $19 a month, plus an initiation fee of as much as $399, you can get financial advice services.

3. HelloWallet: This app, which is owned by Morningstar, takes a behavioral science approach to business to help you plan your financial future, not just today’s bills and debt management. Its founder, Matt Fellowes, is a consumer-finance scholar at the Brookings Institution who melded technology with behavioral psychology to offer individualized personal-finance recommendations based on income, age and spending patterns. Using your GPS, for example, it can alert you that you already have spent too much money at a particular restaurant. It will also point out the gaps in your financial life, like a missing emergency-savings plan or inadequate levels of insurance. It’s primarily distributed through employee wellness plans but household memberships are available — with a three-year commitment — for $100 annually.

4. OnBudget: This new app and its fee-free prepaid-card component follow an unfussy approach to budgeting: You can’t spend more than you have. With a MasterCard prepaid debit card — what OnBudget calls a “monthly budgeting card” — you find yourself organizing spending much as your parents and grandparents may have, with different “envelopes” for each spending category. But in this case it’s virtual envelope organizational behavior that delivers real-time spending patterns, tips on saving money and constructive suggestions for better decision-making. There’s no setup involved because the software system learns your habits as you spend — and tells you about them. A plus: Unlike with most other personal-finance management tools, more than one person in a household can share a single budget. And there’s no hiding spending here because the system tracks who is spending what.

5. Better Haves: Another envelope-budgeting system, this is a relatively new one designed particularly for couples, though individuals can use it too. You can track expenses on the go and watch your color-coded envelopes deplete with each purchase. Once the envelope’s empty, everyone is advised to stop spending in that category. This one’s dashboard charts joint expenses, but there are separate tabs for joint and individual budgets. There’s even an early-warning system that a money fight could be in the offing. Plus it asks you how you felt about your spending that day.

6. Check: This is the rare app that helps you stay on top of your bills and actually pay them from your smartphone. It touts itself as a “free app that does the worrying and work for you.” Once you set it up, it sends reminders of due dates as it monitors your bank accounts and credit cards. It also alerts you in real-time of large purchases or unusual charges, but it won’t assist in budgeting.

Our Mobile App is now available for iPhone and Android users! Receive 24/7 instant access to your First Financial accounts – including bill payment, make transfers, check your balances, find branch and ATM locations, and receive account alerts. Click here to learn more and how you can download the app today!*

*You must have an account at First Financial Federal Credit Union (serving Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ), and be enrolled in online banking, to use this application. Standard data rates and charges may apply.

Original article source by Jennifer Waters of Personal Financial, Market Watch.

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this November 2014

Family at the dinner table at the Thanksgiving day.It’s officially the start of the holiday season and there are plenty of things to do with family and friends in the upcoming weeks to celebrate this special time of year! Just because it’s getting cold, it doesn’t mean there aren’t outdoor activities to enjoy. Check out our list of free or inexpensive activities happening this month in a town near you.

Saturday, November 1 – Sunday, November 2: Gather your gals and treat yourselves to the best local shopping, fashion, travel, entertainment, food, and much more at the New Jersey Women’s Expo at Brookdale Community College (Lincroft)! This weekend-long showcase will feature the best products, services, and attractions created especially for women from 11am-5pm. $7 for adults and children 7 and under are FREE! For more information, click on the link above.

Friday, November 7 – Sunday, November 16: Plan a date night (or two), it’s time for Jersey Shore Restaurant Week! Enjoy a 3-course meal with your choice of an appetizer, entree, and dessert for either $20.14 or $30.14. Click here to see a list of participating restaurants and their menus. For more information, contact Jennifer Flynn at jennifer@jerseyshoreresaurantweek.com.

Saturday, November 15: Go green! It’s Paper Shredding Day for Monmouth County residents at Brielle Borough Hall (601 Union Lane) from 9am-1pm to get rid of old documents and confidential files safely. For more information call 732-683-8686, ext. 6721.

Saturday, November 22: The Manasquan Annual Turkey Run is here just in time for Thanksgiving. Runners can choose to run 1 mile or 5 miles for just $30 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under (special price if purchased before 11/9). For wave times and additional information, call 732-223-8303.

Friday, November 28: It’s time for Red Bank’s 20th Annual Holiday Concert & Tree Lighting Ceremony to kick off the the holiday season! Bring the whole family to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays starting at 7pm. The Santa Express Train will go from Little Silver to Red Bank, followed by a parade from Red Bank Train Station down Monmouth Street, to end at the Holiday Express concert on Broad Street for the annual town lighting! For more information, call 732-842-4244.

Saturday, November 29th: Help rebuild the shore at Belmar’s 3rd Annual Freeze Out! This town-wide music festival will feature the best in local entertainment. The event will be held from 4pm-8pm with other activities following afterwards. This year for a $20 donation, you will receive two drink tickets and a food ticket (buffet will be held from 6pm-8pm) from participating bar/restaurants: Bar Anticipation, Boathouse Bar & Grill, Connolly Station, Jack’s Tavern, 507 Main @ Shark River, and Klein’s Fish Market & Waterside Cafe. For more information call, 732-681-3700 ext. 214. 

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy the start of the holiday season!

Down to Business: Merchant Services

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A professional on his lunch break walks down to a local eatery and enjoys a turkey club with avocado lime spread and a crisp dill pickle spear on the side. For twenty minutes out of his busy day he is calm, and he can already feel the tired 2 o’clock feeling coming on. He reaches for his credit card, swipes and in an instant his tab is settled. Let’s focus on that instant… blip… that instant when funds are transferred from consumer to merchant.

To break it down; the customer swipes his card through the terminal to pay $10.00 for his lunch. The terminal reads who the customer is and contacts the bank that issued the card. The bank at this point, must make a decision on whether or not to pay the merchant. Could the transaction be fraudulent? Are there funds available? Upon approval, the consumer’s bank sends $10.00 to the merchant’s bank, and then the bank deposits $9.80 into the merchant’s account. That $0.20 is sent back to the consumer’s bank and it is then split five times: with the issuing credit or debit card company at a predetermined rate, the issuing credit card brand (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, etc.), the processing company, then to an ISO selling the processing (if applicable), and finally, it is split for the last time if there is an independent contractor selling the processing for the ISO. We’re certainly not splitting the atom, but this is getting eerily close to nuclear fission.

At the end of each business day, all of the credits and fees are tallied by the processing company. After about 2 business days, the settlement is deposited into the merchant’s bank account. The processing fees are typically debited from the merchant’s account 3-5 days after the end of the month. Phew – that is quite the process! Why would a processing company go through all of this effort for pennies on the dollar… or sometimes fractions of a penny? Why would a business pay to have customers pay them?

Market trends and statistics provide an overwhelming answer to these questions.   According to Javelin Research, in 2011 only 27% of all in person sales were made with cash. According to the SEC in 2011 – $17,782,000,000,000.00 were spent using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Diners Club. When you start to take small percentages of nearly 18 trillion dollars, it becomes clear just how lucrative this business can be. For the business owner, according to Ari Shapiro of NPR, consumers purchase 40% more when they shop with a credit card vs. cash. Many interesting clinical psychological studies break down the why behind this.

So what does all of this mean for our small businesses? Well, with so many entities fighting for a slice of the dollar, the competition among merchant services providers is stiff. Given the dynamic nature of the industry, loyalty, transparency and honest hardworking member service are hard to find. Perform your due diligence and interview various clients to see just what kind of service is actually provided. A few minutes now will pay dividends later!

If you’re interesting in merchant services for your business, you’re in luck! First Financial has a new processor who provides great service and excellent rates. If you would like more information on merchant services or business products and services, contact Business Development Manager, Matthew Brazinski, at 732.312.1421 or simply leave a comment below! 

*Sources: Psychology Today, Nerd Wallet, Huffington Post, and Host Merchant Services.